There are those that say true punks smell of wee and not necessarily their own. Others say that the church of punk is a broad and forgiving one, in which bands as diffuse and disparate as The Rezillos and The Stranglers are welcome. Two bands, two very different styles. The Rezillos – frenetic, comic and masterly exponents of the perfect three minute pop-punk song provided the support and sublime counterfoil to the dark and brooding intensity of The Stranglers.
The Stranglers hold a unique place in the ‘British Punk Parthenon’, enjoying greater commercial success than the rest of the class of ’77 and ignoring the divisions between punk, rock, prog and pop. They created an indefinable, unmistakeable sound, driven by the ball grabbing bass of Jean-Jacques Burnel and the monumental keyboards of Brighton’s own Dave Greenfield.
Purists will argue endlessly that a post Hugh Cornwell Stranglers is little more than a high functioning covers band but the truth is the band have been doing very well without him. The Undertones without Fergal Sharkey is an abomination, but AC/DC without Bon Scott was an evolution.
As punks go, they are old, they are very old. Their main drummer (they have two – the last time I saw a band with two drummers was The Gary Glitter Experience!) is 76, but when he comes on stage the crowd let rip with the nattiest chant ever, calling out his name over and over again:” Jet Black, Jet Black, Jet Black.” Age aside, they still have the ability to sculpt a Teutonic wall of sound and slip in and out of bittersweet soft melodies as the mood demands.
Even with a back catalogue as vast and diverse as theirs, it was disappointing not to hear tracks like ‘Five Minutes’ and ‘Nice’n’Sleazy’ but songs as overplayed and underestimated as ‘Golden Brown’, ‘Peaches’ and ‘No More Heroes’ regain something of their original power and sleaze when played live. Only the churlish and the fussy would be disappointed with a three hour set performed by two such potent bands
The Stranglers will be releasing re-mastered vinyl reissues of their classic 1977 albums – ‘Rattus Norvegicus’ and ‘No More Heroes’ to coincide with Record Store Day.
Words by Bonobo Hobo
Image by Warren Meadows